A Mental Mistake

I made a tactical error this week: I watched, and read far too much about Virginia Tech. There were two episodes of My Name Is Earl listed on my DVR Monday night; it was really Dateline NBC. That Boston Legal on Tuesday? ABC Primetime. Yeah, I COULD have just deleted them, but no, I kept watching. At least I’ve missed, so far, the controversial airing of some of the material sent to NBC by the killer. Yet I was coming to a conclusion not dissimilar to this one. Which is to say, I do feel for the VT community, and the country as a whole, but I’m struck by how one bomb in Baghdad might well kill two or three dozen people. I wonder if we – I – have become inured because it happens so damn often there.

The shock of VT will subside when the NEXT thing happens – was the Don Imus thing only last week? – only to be brought back in the spotlight by the inevitable lawsuit by some of the families of the last 30 victims. (Meanwhile, whether to lock up the guns or for everyone to be packin’ heat is addressed well here.

But the BIGGEST mistake I made this week was going here where one can find the full text of a couple of Cho Seung-Hui’s plays. Oddly, it wasn’t the plays I found most disturbing, it was the banal dialogue of people. Nasty sniping at each other. “Someone should have turned him in, gotten him therapy” (in fact, they did). Well, you can read it if you want. For some reason, the movie Minority Report came to mind, even though I’ve never seen it.

Anyway, here’s one comment. Please tell me what you think, if you will:

This guy’s sick for sure. But he’s sick because he killed 30+ people. He’s not sick because he wrote weird plays.

As a writer, I find it offensive that so many people say this kid should have been turned into counselors, authorities, school officials, etc. because of something he wrote. Do we really want a society where we judge the content of someone’s character based on a creative piece he or she wrote? If your answer is yes, then think of all the books we would have to burn. Think of the great works of the past that we would never read. Forget about Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” or almost anything else by Shakespeare. Forget about Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw.” We couldn’t read “Fahrenheit 451” even though we’d be living in a society sort of like the society in “Fahrenheit 451.” And Stephen King? Are you kidding? He’s as sick as this guy, if we’re judging people based on creative works. The school officials are not to blame. The students are not to blame. The local law enforcement officials are not to blame. This could have happened anywhere, on any campus, in any dorm. That’s what makes it so tragic.

I was intrigued, however, how the local media lucked into “the local angle” as poet Nikki Giovanni, who I used to read 20 years ago, taught Cho a couple years ago, but booted him out of class. She spoke at an already scheduled lecture at the University at Albany on Thursday.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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